Walter Mencken 9:44 a.m., July 5
If Filner falls, so rise the Kochs?
Newly arrived U-T San Diego editorialist worked for non-profit news outfit linked to conservative oil and chemical magnates by Columbia Journalism Review
The billionaire Koch brothers, David and Charles of Wichita, Kansas, don't enjoy much obvious clout in San Diego politics, but that could soon change, depending in part on the fate of Republican spearheaded recall efforts to oust Democratic mayor Bob Filner from office.
As reported here in June, mega-millionaire La Jolla-based real estate developer and hotel mogul Douglas Manchester's U-T San Diego has hooked up with a Virginia media non-profit outfit said by the Columbia Journalism Review to be financed in part by the Kochs.
Wrote Manchester's paper: "Today, the U-T San Diego Editorial Board, in partnership with the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, launches a project that we boldly hope will help change the direction of California before the Golden State becomes a failed state."
But what exactly is the Franklin Center and precisely what role is it playing in the U-T crusade? Depending on who's doing the talking, Franklin is either a faithful watchdog of big government or a right-wing plot to destroy legitimate journalism.
According to an April 2 report posted online by the Columbia Journalism Review, "In 2011, fully 95 percent of the Franklin Center’s revenues came from a charity called Donors Trust, whose top contributors were the Koch brothers."
"The Franklin Center’s Vice President of Journalism, Steven Greenhut, told CJR that its donors play no role in shaping its coverage. When we sent Greenhut a list of questions for this piece, Greenhut responded in depth—and promptly published his answers in a strongly worded piece disputing any notion that conservative donors taint Watchdog’s coverage"
In his online reply to the questions posed by CJR, Greenhut wrote:
"You are investigating the sources of our funding, as if there is anything there to actually investigate beyond what you, CPI, Media Matters, the Guardian and other lefty publications have already written."
"Yes, Franklin Center is funded by donors and, no, we do not publish their names to respect their privacy."
"Left-wing journalism enterprises also are funded by donors and often do not publish the names of their donors, but we haven’t seen any reports from CJR on those groups."
"If you believe that conservative donors undermine our journalism, then surely you must believe that liberal donors undermine the journalism done by those outfits."
"Then again, I suspect that the real problem is one of political philosophy: we have a different take on the news than you do."
As it turns out, Greenhut has since switched jobs.
He is now the California columnist for Manchester's U-T San Diego, according to his profile on U-T's website:
Greenhut formerly was vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, where he managed a team of 35 investigative reporters and editors who covered state capitols across the country.
He is author of the 2009 book, "Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives And Bankrupting the Nation." Greenhut played a critical role in launching "Fixing California," a joint project between the U-T and the Franklin Center.
Of course, when your patrons have that much political cash to throw around, it's sometimes hard not to find yourself in the same money bed with a few self-styled liberal types.
For instance, freshly minted Democrat Nathan Fletcher - who used to be a Republican before he was an independent - has also benefited from Koch brothers cash in the form of a $1000 contribution in November 2009 to his GOP 2010 Assembly campaign from Georgia-Pacific LLC, the giant pulp and paper company based in Atlanta, Georgia that is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the brother’s privately held Koch Industries industrial empire.
A pro-union non-profit called Unionosity.com singled out Georgia Pacific and the Kochs for opprobrium during the battle over Prop 32, the anti-labor union political witholding measure that went down to defeat last year.
Between 2009 and 2010, Georgia-Pacific funneled donations of $1,000 or more to the campaigns of 25 different California state Senators and Assembly members—including the Howard Jarvis-approved Senator Sam Blakeslee, offshore oil drilling advocate Assemblyman Martin Garrick, and Assemblywoman Diane Harkey, whose environmental voting record looks like John Galt’s Christmas list.
The company retains the services of the powerful lobbying firm McHugh, Koepke & Associates. The firm spent much of the past few years attempting to gut provisions of California’s Green Chemistry Initiative–a 2008 law protecting California citizens from exposure to toxic industrial chemicals–on behalf of an Orwellian-named consortium of chemical companies (including Georgia-Pacific) called the Green Chemistry Alliance.
These days Fletcher is a Democrat and working for Qualcomm, the San Diego cell phone giant founded by La Jolla billionaire Irwin Jacobs, a million-dollar-plus Obama backer, who is widely believed to be angling to make Fletcher the next mayor should Filner falter.
Democrat Jacobs has plowed big bucks into his own selection of local non-profit media, including San Diego State University’s public broadcasting operation, also known as KPBS, where the newsroom is named in his honor.
If Filner goes down, Jacobs and Fletcher could find themselves facing off against the GOP's Manchester and his own handpicked choice for mayor, Republican ex-city councilman Carl DeMaio.
More like this:
- Manchester vs. Jacobs, round two — Aug. 18, 2014
- Harry Reid's anti-Koch PAC hits town — July 15, 2014
- Media cabal building political machine? — May 16, 2014
- Mayoral battle joined as billionaire Jacobs goes for Fletcher — Sept. 25, 2013
- Koch-tied non-profit teams with Manchester's U-T San Diego — June 3, 2013